WW2 Fire Fighter Heroes
Ottawa, Canada and area



New December 26, 2012:

Thanks to David Smith for the following:


WW2 Fire Fighter Heros
ROFFA Member Ron Cutbill sent me an article below from a neighbour regarding the over 400 men who volunteered to go to England as fire fighters during the blitz. It is interesting in quite a few ways, one being that it was written by Instructor Fred Collins who is well known to many ROFFA members who had the opportunity to attend the Ontario Fire College in Gravenhurst. It is also very interesting to note the Ottawa Fire Fighters who worked there and some of the funny stories they brought back to our kitchen tables in the fire stations.
Fire during the Blitz in England during WW2
Fred Collins wrote: There is a group of Canadian Firefighters who are worthy of special recognition. Their exploits are largely forgotten and most members of the Canadian Fire Service today have probably never heard of them. However, they wrote a special chapter in courage and service during the Second World War and in the annals of the Fire Services of Canada. In 1941 the Right Honourable MacKenzie King, the Prime Minister of Canada visited England. During this visit the United Kingdom requested that Canada form a contingent of Firefighters to serve in Great Britain. This request was agreed to and shortly thereafter recruiting began for the Corps of Canadian Firefighters Overseas. Enlistment was voluntary and Firefighters from all across Canada answered the call. The original Corps, consisting of 422 members, was made up of men from 107 municipalities representing all provinces of the Dominion. Their presence in the United Kingdom did not go unnoticed. The Manchester Evening News edition of Saturday, 15 May, 1943 referred to them as "a blood transfusion for a sorely wounded warrior." After a four week course following arrival in England, mainly of blitz firefighting, rescue work and drill, the contingent was assigned to two fire stations in Southampton, two in Portsmouth, one in Plymouth and one in Bristol. Corps headquarters was established in London. After a brief familiarization period the Canadians became solely responsible for their districts. The Corps was commanded by Gordon E. Huff, a former Fire Chief of the Brantford, Ontario Fire Department. He was largely responsible for organizing and recruiting the unit. He was, at that time, a 23 year veteran of the Ontario Fire Service. He was chosen, in the words of MacKenzie King, because "He was a crack Firefighter, he knew the English well having been over in the last war and he had proved his worth as a fire organizer". During this period the cities where the Corps was stationed were subjected to heavy air raids. The fires started by the bombs had to be dealt with and those buildings which were destroyed but where no fires occurred made for unique rescue situations. Also, the number of alarms to be dealt with was far beyond those experienced in more peaceful times. There were numerous injuries to Corps members, but few were serious. Only three members lost their lives; one in a traffic accident In the course of training and the third due to a robot bomb. In addition, only three other members were seriously injured during their tour. Commander Huff puts this down to "good luck" but I suspect it was more a case of good training and professionalism. However, as is always the case, some luck does come into play. On one occasion, a bomb destroyed the hostel of one of the crews. They were away fighting a fire at the time the bomb hit. The Corps served with distinction until the war ended. Corps members were awarded: 1 Order of the British Empire (Commanding Officer Huff), 1 Member of the British Empire, 2 British Empire Medals, 1 Royal Humane Society Testimonial on Parchment and 2 Royal Humane Society Testimonials on Vellum. As well, all who served were awarded special badges signifying their service. When they got back to Canada many of them joined various Fire Departments across the country, bringing with them their unique experiences, training and knowledge from their war service. I was privileged to serve on a fire department with one of these individuals. Captain Duncan Doan of the Welland Fire Department related many stories of his exploits while he was serving in Plymouth and London. Like all heroes, he said nothing of the bad times but only related the good and the humorous. Two other members of the Corps I met later. These two individuals are likely known to many of the older Firefighters still serving. They are Martin S. Hurst, who later became the third Fire Marshal of Ontario. Ralph Leonard, who became the first Chief Instructor of the Ontario Fire College. The Author: Fred Collins is the father of Rob Collins (Not OFD Rob), one of the FCW Volunteers. Fire Chief Maynard Dolman was the person awarded the MBE (Member of British Empire) Other Ottawa Fire Fighters who served as wartime fire fighters were; Edward E Andrews joined Ottawa Fire Department in 1937 and retired as a Captain in 1971 Douglas McDonald Ash joined Ottawa Fire Department in 1938 resigned in 1950 Lorne Carrigan resigned from Ottawa Fire Department and enlisted, did not return to Ottawa Fire J. A. Coulliard was with Nepean Fire amalgamated with Ottawa in 1950 left to re-enlist Gerry Dixon joined OFD in 1938 and went overseas as a fire fighter in England retired 1968 Maynard Dolman MBE joined OFD in 1924 went overseas as a fire fighter returned and later became Fire Chief. (see above) He died in 1961 still an active fire fighter. Ross Ethier joined OFD in 1934 and signed up to fight fires in England, Ross retired in 1967 William E. Graham went overseas as a Fire Fighter, he had joined OFD in 1923 and retired upon returning in 1945. He was the son of Francis Graham (LODD) and was the grandfather of Susan Gervais wife of ROFFA Member Ron Gervais Gerard Lefebvre was a fire fighter in England Joined Ottawa Fire in 1944 and resigned in 1945. Tony McCarthy joined OFD in 1936 went over with fire fighters to England, later signed on as a tail gunner with RAF. Tony was a well-respected Platoon Chief with Ottawa Fire and retired in 1974 Lloyd McElvoy joined OFD in 1940 went overseas and fought fires in England returned to OFD and resigned in 1953 to return to armed services? Ken McKibbon joined the fire fighters in England and joined OFD on his return in 1945. Ken retired as a District Chief in 1981 Stuart McMullin joined OFD in 1941 and resigned the next year and joined the fire fighters in England. Wilfred (Bill) Parent joined OFD in 1938 went overseas to fight fires during WW2 and returned to become Platoon Chief. Bill was very active with Ottawa Fire Fighters Credit Union. He retired in 1977 William Schultz joined OFD in 1921 went over with fire fighters to England and retired in 1953 James G Stewart was a Nepean Fire Fighter who amalgamated with OFD in 1950. He retired in the same year and returned to England. Other Ottawa area citizens who served as fire fighters in England; J. M. U. Beaulne St Patrick Street R. E. Brennan Guigues Street R. W. Cameron Mountain Ontario L. L. Carrigan Glen Avenue W. E. Clapp Arthur Street J. T. Dale Chapel Street P. P. Desrochers Friel Street B. A. Dussiaume Bank Street W. J. Geldart Blackburn Avenue H. E. Graham LeBreton Street G. A. Lefebvre Nicholas Street A. D. Lesage Kent Street V. Matthews Frank Street S. A. McMullin Elm Street A. F. Merridith Concord Street J. A. Mulvagh Smirle Avenue W. H. Mulvagh Bay Street R. E. Murphy Waverly Street A. S. Needler Cooper Street A. E. Parent Cumberland Street W. J. O. Pilon Besserer Street J. M. Porier Cumberland Street D, J, A. N. Proulx Rideau Street W. A. Shultz Marlborough Avenue L. S. Sims Gladstone Avenue R. O. Villeneuve Daly Avenue IF anyone has further information on these former members please contact me as it our aim to honour these men in some way down the road with a granite plaque or some such thing… DAS David A. Smith… davidalsmith@sympatico.ca

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